Loro Blonyo - The inseparable couple

 

Traditional Javanese terracotta Loro Blonyo

 

Loro Blonyo are a couple, Dewi Sri and her consort Sadono. Loro Blonyo is Javanese literally translating as 'two become one', but arguably in this relationship Dewi Sri is the more significant member. 

Derived from the Hindu goddess Sri Devi, the female form of Vishnu and goddess of prosperity, she evolved in Central Java as a depiction of prosperity, fertility, and beauty.

 

An Indianized depiction of Sri Devi holding a rice sheaf

 

There are early representations of Devi Sri in bronze dating form the Central Javanese Period (A.D. 650-950). In these Dewi Sri is depicted with a stalk of rice and in a gift-bestowing posture. This example below, from the Tropen Museum is interesting in that it has many features of Buddhist iconography. The posture, the hand gesture and the way she holds the sheaf is like a Tara, the female incarnation of the Buddha.

 

Bronze Dew Sri from the Classic period (AD 650 to 900) showing her sitting on a lotus with a rice plant with the varada mudra, the gesture of bestowing
Tropen Museum collection
 

 Dewi Sri is the goddess of rice and all fruit and vegetables that grow in the air. Sadono is the god of all root vegetables, food that grows under ground like say taro or ginger.

She is an example of how the Islamic faith in Java has been able to adapt to include the traditions of its predecessors, Hinduism and before that Animism. Dewi Sri has become the embodiment of beauty, virtue and fertility of the bride. As well as this she is still a focus of ceremonies performed in Java to ensure a bountiful harvest. Combined with Sadono the two represent the bride and groom in the celestial sphere

 As time progressed Loro Blonyo were made from material to hand, both wood or terracotta rather than the more technically challenging bronze.

Today Loro Blonyo are an important part of the wedding ceremony in Java where they are placed on the krobongan (an elaborate ceremonial bed or couch). Bowls, platters and lamps are placed about the goddess and her consort for their comfort. They hold water, food, and sirih pinang, the ingredients for making the betel quid. An oil lamp in the center is kept lit at all times.

During wedding ceremonies the real bride and groom, who copy the dress of Sri and Sadono in the hope of receiving the goddess's blessings for a prosperous and fruitful marriage replace them.

Both bride and groom are clad in fine batiks, their skin rubbed with a yellow paste made from herbs and sweet-smelling flowers. The bride's hair is to cut to resemble the petals of the lotus bud, the lotus symbolizing perfect beauty and purity. A dark green mark on her brow pointed to the inner core of her being. Bride and bridegroom sit solemnly and godlike in front of the krobongan during the last moments of the wedding rites.

 

This is a wedding photo of friends of mine who had a traditional Javanese wedding in the family's village in East Java.

 

In Jogyakarta, Dewi Sri sits on the right, with her consort on the left. In neighbouring Surakarta, their positions are reversed. In Jogyakarta, the couple sit on their heels, while in Surakarta they sit cross-legged.

 

Small pair of old terracotta Loro Blonyo that would have been used in a village ceremony. 20 cm tall

The village depictions of Loro Blonyo are sometimes quite primitive. Such pairs are much more likely to be the genuine thing, made for and used in the wedding ceremony. Nowadays most examples of Loro Blonyo one sees for sale, usually made from wood are made for the tourist market,

There is a Balinese equivalent to the Loro Blonyo. The instances of this are very understated and in my experience private ceremonies.A crudely made couple are fabricated from the mud of a rice field wall and offerings are made by the couple. On the one occasion that I happened upon such a ceremony I asked about it and was told that it is a Telu Bulan (3 month) ceremony. The couple were very shy and I did not want to probe deeper.

 

Balinese Telu Bulan figures

Whatever, a Loro Blonyo pair make a wonderful symbolic addition to a home decoration.

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